Sudsy strategies.

DSCF2936

By now, it’s not just something for Portland to be smug about. Nearly everywhere in America—urban centers, suburbs, college towns, sometimes even rural hamlets—seems capable of supporting a craft brewery. Not only have the numbers of breweries and the often family-friendly brewpubs increased precipitously in the last five years, but the market share for craft …Read more…

Because public art can tow the party line.

DSCF2577-001

In many American cities, the most prominent murals emerge on the blank sidewalls of old buildings, often through months (if not years) of well-calibrated civic collaboration. Philadelphia, the national—and perhaps the global—leader in this art form has its own long-established Mural Arts Program, a well-staffed organization that not only vets the content and creators of …Read more…

Urban recycling: not a bad (unironic) beer in the box.

DSCF2230

A recycling station housed in an old factory building might not seem like a novel concept, particularly in a city with a plethora of underutilized or vacant industrial space.  Like Detroit. And even the appearance of it—a pastiche of industrial chic, street artistry, found objects, and, yes, even a pretty extensive panoply of bins of …Read more…

Who initiated the scrawled controversy? We know (k)nothing.

DSCF2199

In a city as replete with illicitly painted buildings as Detroit, it isn’t hard to find graffiti in which the subject matter both polarizes and fully illustrates the ongoing debate between two parties.  In some parts of the country, these polemics rarely stray outside of the stalls of men’s restrooms.  They’re low-key and almost private.  …Read more…

Movable, misunderstood apparitions.

DSCF1609

In certain subcultures, it’s become a meme.  But it took me a little while to catch on. Only after driving past this curiosity for three consecutive days did I realize what it was.  It’s not exactly showy, but that’s the point.  Look slightly to the left of the center of this photo, and it should …Read more…

Water tower repartee.

hang ten water tower 03

Even if it’s not a commissioned piece like the mural from my previous post, the landscape of artistic expression in Detroit is rich.  Since such a huge portion of it comes in the form of graffiti—which is almost always by definition an act of vandalism—it’s understandable that my opening sentence might carry a whiff of …Read more…

Testing the mutability of murals.

DSCF1166

Urban murals, once a rarity outside of a few pioneering cities such as Philadelphia, have emerged in the last decade or so as a sine qua non for any big-city civic art initiative.  Philadelphia might still be the national (or even global) leader through its Mural Arts Program, but many other cities are trying to …Read more…

Reviving with the wave of a wizard’s wand.

Earlier this past fall, I featured the accomplishments of the City of Kokomo, Indiana in reinventing itself over the past few years, after two decades of rust-belt, deindustrialized stagnancy.  Civic leadership successfully elicited a certain degree of buy-in among its constituent, all toward sundry capital improvements, the likes of which most similarly sized cities still …Read more…

No need to move mountains; just plant the right kind of trees.

Across the country—but particularly in the heavily industrialized Northeast and Midwest—smaller cities have confronted the grim realities of the unflattering “Rust Belt” moniker, and all of its associated characteristics, with varying degrees of success.  With an aging work force, difficulty in retaining college graduates, and a frequently decaying building stock, the challenges they face are …Read more…